Oak Ridge

A City Born to Innovate


Oak Ridge Tennessee was created to support the development of the most transformative technology in human history- the harnessing of atomic fission. created in secret and chosen for its mix of geographic isolation and proximity to infrastructure. Although originally inseparable, ORNL remains an internationally respected institution, while the city of Oak Ridge has weathered several years of economic difficulty. Some of the ills can be traced to the city’s origins, (centerless city, segregated communities) other problems have formed more recently (the pull of Farragut and Knoxville, lack of diverse industry, economic downturn). Not all is negative. Oak Ridge is located in a beautiful ridge and valley topography. Greenspace and forest weave throughout its neighborhoods. The neighborhoods themselves are well scaled and largely affordable with one of the best school systems in Tennessee. The adjacency of ORNL still provides opportunity and context. The reestablishment of a vibrant downtown core would make Oak Ridge a more appealing place to live. The incorporation of multiple housing typologies would begin to provide needed workforce housing for the city and national lab. Working with the city of Oak Ridge, can we identify specific neighborhoods and buildings with catalytic potential? Can we propose a vision for a future Oak Ridge worthy of its potential as a city born to innovate?


James Richard Rose

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Senior Lecturer, Director of Institute for Smart Structures, College of Architecture + Design
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Andrew Obendorf, AIA

Associate Director, Studio Head
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Badger 210

Tyler Sanford, Michaela Stanfill, Michael Swartz

  • Create a new precedent employing sustainable design which will inspire future surrounding buildings in Oak Ridge and in the greater region.
  • Loose fit long life.
  • Capitalize views to Bissell Park and the Ridge.
  • Create a social and environmental park destination that relates to ORAU campus.
  • Design spaces that celebrate existing park conditions.

Double height living room views, with balconies facing both parks. Stacking and blocking method creates cross ventilation, with overhangs and extrusions creating shading.

Bellview Shophouses

Hall, Montgomery, Schmidt

Vertical Ownership

The Bellview Shophouses are divided into twelve units. Each unit consists of a flexible space, two residential levels above that, and a rooftop patio on top. Each unit is owned top to bottom. This vertical ownership provides unique opportunity to create a community space beneath the home.

View of the Park

Each unit has looks out towards Bissell Park. Distinctive windows, balconies, and rooftop patios allow the inhabitants of the unit individualized views of the park. Each view is part of the vertical ownership of each unit, increasing its value and improving the experience of the inhabitant.

Green Wall

The green wall covering the majority of the south side of the building provides shade. The green wall also brings vegetation to a side of the building that was previously lacking in greenery, unlike the north side that faces Bissell Park. The plants that will grow on the south side will change throughout the seasons. Being more vegetated in the summer, the green wall will create more shade. In the winter, when sunlight is needed more, the foliage will be gone, allowing more sunlight in. Not only is the shade regulated by the seasons, but also the appearance; in the fall the foliage will turn autumnal colors, decorating the building.

Element 92 Apartments

Emily Gowder, Rachel Larson, Breanna Williams

Urban Density

In an effort to ‘thicken’ the site, buildings and amenities have been included to attract both visitors and renters to stay in the area and explore. Three levels of movement have been analyzed to ensure that the site is easily accessible to all. Each mode of transportation, pedestrian, bike, and car have two possible paths of travel shown, one for residents and the other for a visitor. Shaded circles describe the speed of each mode of travel as compared to the same scale, around 600 feet. With ample sidewalks, bike lanes, and approximately scaled streets, this site is now easy and fast to explore, regardless of the method of travel.

Parking Reduction

The existing site holds 586 surface spaces, most of which are underutilized at any given point in the day. This plan suggests 145 tree-lined spaces, 24% of the original number. This site remains as accessible as before with the addition of bike and bus routes that run throughout the area.

Flattop Dwellings

Bittinger, Butler, Huddleston

a re-interpretation of Oak Ridge's Flattop Houses

The Manhattan Project was a time of dire need for the country and the world, as the City of Oak Ridge rushed to be built and to build the most revolutionary technological weapon of all time. Born from this society, in a time where there was a need for efficiency to meet great demand for the growing war effort in Oak Ridge, the historic flattop houses were built. They were built for efficiency and demand, prefabricated and later placed on site, these houses were highly revolutionary for their time.

Taking the core ideas of these houses into the contemporary era, furthering the idea of prefabrication, the premise of his project is to assess the architectural need of today and the agency that prefabricated architecture is afforded. In this, assessing the prevalence of the empty bag box typology that plagues every suburban area in the country, and its need to have the building typology assessed in a non-wasteful and innovative way. Using prefabricated housing, that is ultimately transportable and efficient to create assess the architectural problem of the big box that, by its nature, is not wasteful and assess the architectural need for today.

  • front section of the existing structure has been removed to create an entry space for people to gather
  • puncturing openings in the existing building and CMU walls, opening up the building’s access to the public
  • puncturing openings in the existing roof, allowing daylight to penetrate into the massive floor plate
  • additive photovoltaic array, used to offset 89.1% of annual heating and cooling load
  • perforated metal screen used to clad the existing CMU walls and dress up the otherwise mundane and typical southern facade
  • planting is introduced to break up the existing CMU floor slab and enliven the interior outdoor areas
  • wind is allowed to penetrate the interior of the building, lowering the overall HVAC load for the units
  • the overall area of the private floor plate of the building is greatly reduced, inviting the public into covered courtyards and open areas, greatly increasing and encouraging public site accessibility

Jenga Apartments

Nadin Jabri, Lauren Taylor, Michael McKever

The students explored a number of ways to design the building using modular blocks. To best represent the dimensions of the blocks, Jenga blocks were used for a quick design charrette to assess each iteration. Addressed in each iteration were issues of sunlight, outdoor access, unit size, and ownership of the properties. Ultimately final iteration allowed maximum access to sunlight for the residents, as well as outdoor space and views to greenery.

Loose Talk

supporting a better for Oak Ridge by celebrating what already makes it great

Oak ridge has an amazing natural landscape that draws residents from surrounding cities of Knoxville and Maryville. It’s national laboratories support the local economy and help encourage new innovation. And now with the Green Line, Oak Ridge has another reason to be green. It has the potential to be a sustainable-conscious city dedicated to environmental and social well-being.

Green Wall Potential

Hacking an Existing System

Our screening system utilizes an existing terracotta cladding system that is used for the exterior walls in our residential community. By using an established system, we provide cohesive aesthetics throughout, while being able to invest our energy in the design of the terracotta panels.

Greenwall Insert

A second potential of 3D Printed terracotta is the potential to underbake the clay, so that the terracotta can retain moisture. Therefore, we developed a system that would attach to our screen system, allowing plants to grow alongside the balconies of the residents.


Proposed Systems

Geothermal is not only a clean energy alternative for our building, but also has the potential to benefit future buildings that chose to locate along our “Greenline”. Although vertical wells require deep digging, they are in ideal solution for new developments such as ours because there is no existing landscape in danger. Therefore, the introduction of a green way in our site won’t only add aesthetic qualities, but performative as well.